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Potent Hallucinogen Flies Under Radar

By Hempology | July 10, 2006


It was a warm night last summer when John gathered in a metro parking lot with a few friends and smoked one of the most potent hallucinogens on the market.

Brought from British Columbia, the drug — salvia divinorum — didn’t raise an eyebrow at airport security.

For good reason: despite its intoxicating buzz, it’s perfectly legal.

“It’s worse than being 10 times as drunk as you’ve ever been in your life,” remembers John ( not his real name ).

“It really messes up your depth perception.

A tiny puddle appeared to be a giant pond to me, even though I knew damn well I was in a parking lot.”

The drug hits instantly and, apparently within moments, users are so messed up they can’t see straight.

Some people claim out-of-body experiences.

Others drool uncontrollably or have intense cases of paranoia. Although the experience only lasts five to 10 minutes, it’s said to be a trip like no other.

“Everything is distorted beyond belief,” says one user, a frequent pot-smoker.

“I know people who’ve used acid and claim that salvia is more intense.”

Due to its shamanistic and psychotropic effects, the drug was common in ancient Mexican divining rituals, centering around healing and spirituality.

It’s readily available across Canada. It’s sold in head shops — places to purchase bongs or cigarette papers — as incense or, simply, as salvia d. ( The ex/press was unable to find a store where the drug was available in the St. John’s area, but had little problem confirming its use here. )

Although the drug is sometimes age restricted in certain shops, it doesn’t have to be. It’s an uncontrolled — and therefore legal — substance all across Canada.

“Neither salvia divinorum, nor its main active ingredient salvinorin A, are controlled under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act,” says Carolyn Sexauer of Health Canada. “Internationally, salvia divinorum is not controlled under the United Nations Drug Control Conventions.”

And, to top it off, the drug doesn’t show up on the drug radar in St. John’s.

When contacted, both the Newfoundland and Labrador Pharmacy Board and the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary were oblivious to salvia.

“We’ve never heard of it,” says Sgt. Marlene Jesso of the RNC. “We’ve never had any problems with it.”

Only four domestic cases of problems with the drug have been reported in Canada — and three were non-serious.

That, Sexauer says, isn’t enough to constitute a threat.

“Because a substance is abused by some people may not necessarily be a reason in itself to add it to the Controlled Drug and Substances Act,” she says.

“If that were the case, alcohol, tobacco, glue and gasoline would be regulated under the Act. To date, Health Canada has insufficient evidence to conclude that salvia poses a significant risk to the Canadian public.”

One user thinks otherwise.

“Honestly, this should definitely not be legal,” he says. “If salvia is legal, then marijuana should be, too, for the simple fact that dope has a much weaker effect. Salvia would be very dangerous to anyone operating any vehicle, bicycle included.”

And although he had a good trip, John realizes that won’t always be the case.

“A lot of my friends really hated it,” he says. “The best part is, it doesn’t last long. Believe me — you wouldn’t want it to.”

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